Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, not so much if you go to jail there. The conditions of their jails are deplorable infested with rats and I'm not talking the two legged ones, though, there are plenty of those.
I arrived there welcomed to the squat, cough, and lice bath. A new blue snap up jumpsuit, a mesh bag with a small comb, a toothbrush, two flat sheets and an army blanket.
Escorted through slamming metal locking doors to an open area with two tiers of cells, inmates in the center area watching TV and playing cards. I was white and most of the inmates I saw were black, a disparity that is real. Ms. Perry, the correctional officer was over this pod and yelled loudly to me, "go up there to cell 50", pointing up the metal stairs to the corner cell on the right of this C shaped pod. With that a loud voice yelled, "don't sent that bitch up to my cell, I told you I don't want a cell mate.
Shit,I just got there and already I have a problem. Ms. Perry looked at me and said, "Go on"!
I climbed the steps and went in the cell. It was dingy and stinking like old dirty clothes. I saw the top bunk was empty so I put the flat sheets on tucked them under the paper thin lumpy so called mattress, I put the scratchy Army blanket on next and I sat up there thinking what the hell is gonna happen next.
A few hours later a black girl entered the cell and said,"you better tell Ms. Perry to move you out of this cell tomorrow ". I said nothing and just layed there till I eventually fell asleep.
The days rolled by. I got a job in the law library. I was still in the cell with that seemingly mean girl. I didn't ask to be moved because I saw this situation as a challenge and I was too curious of what it was that caused this girl to be so mean. Why didn't she want to interact with others,why didn't she shower, why did she sleep so much, what was the root of her problem? I was determined to not only find out but also prove to her there are good people in this world by being one myself to her in spite of her distrust.
My brother Ralph sent me twenty dollars for commissary. I was so happy! When I got back to the cell with my commissary I told Candy "I'm putting this commissary bag under your bunk, there are some Debbie cakes and Reese cups and you can have some if you like, it's our commissary. She didn't say anything, just looked at me like I was some pain in the ass stupid girl.
I also was able to purchase a bottle of Pert shampoo. I asked Candy if she mind if I wiped the cell down, for real it stank because she never showered but I needed a fresh scent in that cell. Her words were"I don't fucken care, you need to ask Ms. Perry to move you".
Well, I washed that cell down and ignored her remark. Working in the Law Library was a great diversion, it got me out of the cell during the week.
I loved to read and I brought books back to the cell to read. One day I asked Candy if she wanted to read a book I was reading that was Particularly good, she said"I don't want to read no fucken book"! Next I asked her one evening if I could read the book out loud because that helped me understand what I was reading better. She said,"I don't fucken care what you do". Well, my trick worked, I was determined she was gonna read this damn book even if I had to read it to her!
As the evenings passed and the pages turned, Candy started to talk to me. She started making comments about the story, wondering what would happen next and asking me to read one more page before I went to sleep.
On another commissary day I asked Candy if I could get her something and she wanted some Debbie cakes. She was starting to smile and amazingly she started to take showers.
Other inmates started to comment on the change they saw in her. One morning in the food line an inmate said to me, "you're the longest cell mate Candy has ever had but you better ask Ms. Perry to move you because Candy has HIV". Now it all started to make sense,I said, " No problem, I'm not gonna catch HIV from her."
Well, word travels fast in jail and I'm sure this response was the big topic that day. That evening when I returned from the Law library Candy said, "sit down. I have something to tell you". " You need to tell Ms.Perry to move you because I have HIV". I said, " I'm not gonna catch HIV from you and I'm not going anywhere". With that she started to cry and I hugged her. She confessed that the reason she never wanted me to bring her a book was because she couldt read, the reason she wanted me out of her cell was because once any other inmates found out she had HIV they always asked to be moved.
As our conversation continued I discovered Candy had a Social Secruty check that was going to her house and her family member was signing it and keeping the money. Because I worked in the Law library I was able to contact that office and have her check sent to her. I started teaching her to read and I filed a petition to her judge to get her in the work release program.
She came out of her shell as the time passed. She was beautiful when she smiled with the cutest dimples. We became friends and I gained her trust.
One morning around five A.M. the cell door lock popped and a guard yelled,"Candy, pack it up, your going to work release." We both were startled awake with excitement and fear.
Candy was afraid of this unknown next step in her life and I was afraid of this next unknown step of losing the friend I made. Prison is a lonely and scary place with few people you can trust.
Candy started to cry and said she wasn't going. I told her through my tears yes you are and you are going to promise me you will not go back in that shell, you will stay the girl you are now and live a good life for me! With that Candy was gone. I never saw or heard from her again. To this day I don't know what happened to her. I do know God puts us where he needs us to be. Candy needed someone like me to believe in her and help her trust again. I needed a challenge to prove I was a good person and could be of use to God. I didn't help save Candy, Candy helped save me...